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The IDM assesses individual deprivation using 15 key dimensions of life that women and men with lived experience of poverty say matter.

By interviewing multiple adult members of the same household, the IDM helps to reveal inequality within households where it exists.

The importance of looking inside households is illustrated by this example of a household in Fiji. This data was collected by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, which undertook an IDM study in Fiji with IWDA.  The figure below shows the extent of deprivation experienced by different individuals in one sampled household.  ‘Difficulties’ refers to the extent to which the person experiences functional difficulties (the IDM uses the Washington Group questions to identify disability and enable disaggregation of data by disability). Such differences are hidden when poverty is measured at the household level.

This image is a chart, showing the experience of 4 members of the same household against the IDM dimensions. The difference between the four members of the household are most notable in relation to voice (men have greater voice) and family planning (the younger man and woman have greater access than their older parents).

How the IDM works

The IDM assesses individual deprivation in relation to 15 key economic and social aspects of life. These were identified through participatory research with more than 3000 individuals with lived experience of poverty across six countries.

Each dimension is measured using a number of indicators. The indicators seek key information that is easily and readily collected, drawing on the best current measurement thinking, and are already well validated wherever possible. Indicators capture both access and achievement.  For example the Health Dimension indicators are Health Status, Health Care Access and Health Care Quality.

Data for these indicators is collected by asking individuals specific, concrete questions. For example, the Health Status indicator asks about the last injury or illness, whether this caused a work absence or affected usual duties, and the length of this interruption.


Image showing the 15 IDM dimensions: food, water, shelter, health, education, energy/fuel, sanitation, relationships, clothing, violence, family planning, the environment, voice, time use and work.

Responses to questions are measured on a 0-4 scale, from extremely deprived through to not deprived. It is not enough to know that people are poor. The nature and intensity of a person’s poverty influences what it will take for them to move out of poverty.

An individual’s score on each question contributes to an overall dimension score.  This score identifies the extent of deprivation in that dimension on a 0-4 scale. Dimension scores can also be added to generate an overall score out of 100. This score shows an individual’s overall level of deprivation on a 0-4 scale, from extremely deprived through to not deprived.

The IDM can be used to give an overall picture of deprivation and to explore the specific deprivations that are contributing to poverty.

Because the IDM collects information about 15 dimensions of life from a single individual, it makes it possible to see the relationship between different dimensions. The IDM also collects information about age, sex, sociocultural background, household size, and geography and screens for disability using the Washington Group questions on disability, making it possible to see how deprivation is related to these factors and how these factors intersect to affect deprivation.

Image of an IDM enumerator using a tablet to carry out the IDM study in Nepal.
The IDM will develop an integrated IT system to collect, store, protect and analyse data efficiently. Photo: Alice Floyd/IWDA

Key features

The IDM offers new insights into poverty and inequality, including gender inequality.

  1. It assesses poverty at the individual level, enabling accurate disaggregation of data by sex, age, disability, ethnicity, religion, geographic location and more.
  2. It considers a wider range of factors as relevant to measuring poverty, assessing 15 key economic and social dimensions including some especially important for revealing gender disparity (e.g. voice in the community, time-use, family planning, personal relationships).
  3. The IDM can be sex-disaggregated across 15 dimensions of life relevant to women and men experiencing poverty, generating a poverty-relevant gender equity measure.
  4. Because the IDM collects data on 15 dimensions from each individual (as opposed to using existing cross-sectional data) it can reveal the impact of intersecting deprivations and inform targeting of deprivations impacting particular populations.
  5. The IDM uses a 0 to 4 scale, overcoming the loss of detail and assumptions associated with categorising people as either ‘poor’ or ‘not poor.’ Knowing how poor individuals are, in what dimensions, matters for policy and programming, and assessing the effectiveness of action.
  6. The IDM survey is straightforward and relatively quick to administer, with particular value in data poor contexts given coverage of both economic and social dimensions.
  7. It is grounded in the views of people with lived experience of poverty about how it should be defined and measured, and what is required to be not poor, while also being comparable across contexts and over time.
  8. The IDM is policy relevant. It can help governments and organisations target poverty more effectively as well as help them measure success or failure, revealing what aspects of poverty are changing, by how much and for whom.

What should I do if I want to use the IDM in my research, work or policy-making?

Thank you for your interest in the Individual Deprivation Measure (IDM). The measure is currently undergoing refinement and testing and will not be ready for global use until 2020. We value your interest and engagement and ask that anyone wanting to use the IDM, or anyone who has already used the IDM, in research or policy work please be in touch with us directly.  Below we have provided further information about where the IDM is currently at in development and why your engagement with our teams before use or distribution of work related to the IDM is so critical.

The best way to be in touch is via

Current phase of IDM development:

The IDM represents an innovative way forward in the production of primary data to understand and assess poverty, and inequality, in a way that is gender sensitive. It has gone through a rigorous development process, which began with participatory research involving men and women with lived experience of poverty, about how poverty should be defined and measured and what needed to change in order to be not poor.

Through the successful proof of concept phase, the Individual Deprivation Measure demonstrated that it is both possible and desirable to have individual, multidimensional and scalar measurement, and that the resulting data is vital to truly understanding poverty.  We have also made visible the limitations of current approaches to producing poverty data, including that they are largely gender-blind.

Having demonstrated this, the Individual Deprivation Measure has now moved into a refinement and validation phase, supported by strategic funding from the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).  In this phase we are using the measure in multiple contexts in order to:

  • Better understand the application of the tool in various contexts
  • Continually refine our methods to ensure the IDM is technically robust, ethical, and producing a real-value add to currently available data, in many contexts and when used with different partners—from national governments to local governments and civil society organisations.

We are on track to have the IDM ready for global use by 2020.  In the meantime, insights from testing and validation work and periodic methodological updates will be shared on this website.

At the same time as we are busy applying and refining the measure, a growing number of actors are recognising that poverty will only be truly understood when it is measured at an individual level. This includes an increasing number of stakeholders, including researchers, civil society organisations and governments, wanting to use the IDM in their own contexts.

The importance of being in touch with us before use or distribution of work related to the IDM:

We are thrilled that the momentum for individual, gender-sensitive, multidimensional and scalar poverty measure is growing all the time, and excited to see a growing cohort interested in exploring the application of the IDM and its analytical relevance to their research, work, or policy-making.  However, as we finalise the testing and validation process of the tools, the IDM is not yet ready for use by all actors.  At present its use is still governed by the Human Research Ethics Protocol of the Australian National University.

We are eagerly looking forward to the IDM being ready for global use; in the meantime we are asking those who are interested in the measure to get in touch with us early so that we can:

  1. Understand your specific interest;
  2. Discuss with you whether, and if so, in what ways, your context is appropriate for application of the IDM in its current validation stage;
  3. Communicate with you regularly about how the IDM is progressing, and
  4. Most importantly, share details of the launch of the measure when it is ready for global use in 2020!

If you’re thinking about using the IDM for research or a survey, have already used the IDM, or are interested in more information to inform planning for use, please contact us directly on: or sign up to receive our newsletter.